Guest Blog: Snatching success from UC failure

John Howard

As the nature of the workplace changes in the wake of modern technology, CIOs are rushing to enable more effective communications platforms for their staff. Ultra-personal, ultra-collaborative and ultra-mobile, with staff working from any and everywhere they need to, Unified Communications (UC) systems promise productivity and efficiency in the new office.

For all the hype and investment, UC hasn’t yet delivered the benefits it promised a decade ago when business leaders started to be sold on its transformative potential. A survey of 200 IT professionals published in January this year found that only 21 percent of companies had fully adopted UC, combining voice, video, email, instant messaging and other platforms, with 57% only partially implementing the technology.

Whilst UC itself is now mature, end-user uptake has limited the broader impact of the technology on workplace transformation.

The key to this problem is the user experience. Workers are increasingly familiar with consumer high-definition internet video services, but given the choice of a desk phone or UC tools, the majority will reach for the phone. As Tony Bates, president of the Skype & Lync division at Microsoft said at the Lync Conference in San Diego recently, "We need a common user experience that’s people centric… it’s got to be natural, and it’s got to be friction free." Ensuring that the experience is compelling is crucial to driving higher adoption rates.

The gap between hardware and software communications is core to the ‘culture shock’ of UC – the desire to pick up a phone instead of clicking a mouse or button – and bridging this is a key part of the challenge for CIOs today. Our enterprise keyboard with phone and video controls is one example of how the issue can be tackled, giving the end-user a hardware interface for making and receiving calls.

Another key issue is in the quality of the experience. Embedded video cameras in corporate laptops can deliver a truly shocking experience compared to the high quality possible and experienced by staff in their homes. High definition corporate webcams that not only address the quality issue but bring useful business features, such as a wide field of view allowing multiple people to participate on one end of a video call, can go some way to addressing this challenge.

A recent study by INSEAD found that the rise in mobility, collaboration tools and cloud-based services are expected to double corporate competitiveness from 35 percent to 72 percent by 2015. Strategic CIOs will work hard to ensure that their UC implementation goes beyond the basic, and taps into UC’s potential for broader transformation. To do this they must face off against the challenge of end-user adoption by delivering a higher quality, seamless experience.

John Howard, Executive Director, Logitech for Business

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